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Education

Dozens urge Bedford against school cuts

Deficit-reduction plan OK'd on 6-0 vote

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    Randy Alcock, left, holds a sign as state Rep. Rick Olson, seated, far right, listens to the board of education meeting in which school cuts were discussed.

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    Ted Magrum, superintendent of Bedford Schools, addresses about 100 people, most of them district employees, at Thursday's session.

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Dozens-urge-Bedford-against-school-cuts-1

Ted Magrum, superintendent of Bedford Schools, addresses about 100 people, most of them district employees, at Thursday's session.

THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON
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TEMPERANCE -- The Bedford Board of Education Thursday heard from a succession of speakers urging them not to make cuts included in a plan the district is resubmitting to the state to bring its projected budget deficits into balance by 2015.

Attending the school board meeting were two Michigan legislators, state Reps. Dale Zorn of Ida and Rick Olson of Saline, both Republicans, who listened as the district's plight was blamed on reductions in state funding for education.

About 100 people, most of them district employees, packed the meeting at Monroe Road Elementary.

PHOTO GALLERY: Bedford Board of Education meeting

The proximate cause of their concern was a deficit-elimination plan whose cost-cutting measures include concessions from teachers, the elimination of high school busing, closing another school building, the elimination of one of the two Monroe County sheriff's deputies assigned to the schools, and the privatization of the jobs held by nonteaching employees such as bus drivers, bus aides, and custodians.

Colleen Jan, a junior high teacher who is president of the district's teachers union, said the best practices encouraged by the state to trim costs "means penury" for school employees.

The cut most often objected to was the elimination of one of the sheriff's deputies for a saving of $80,000. Speaker after speaker praised the deputies, Randy Sehl and Randy Krupp, as dedicated lawmen who prevented trouble and served as fine role models.

Parent Regina Whalen recounted how her special needs son in the seventh grade once had a serious anxiety attack and was aided by Deputy Sehl. She said he referred to the deputy as "my bodyguard."

Dozens-urge-Bedford-against-school-cuts-2

Randy Alcock, left, holds a sign as state Rep. Rick Olson, seated, far right, listens to the board of education meeting in which school cuts were discussed.

THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Beatrice Ponke, a paraprofessional at the junior high with two children in the high school, said bullying and fighting were common and "we need to have the presence of those two officers."

The board adopted the plan in a 6-0 vote, with member Shawna Smith absent, the second time the panel has done so. The plan, originally filed with the Michigan Department of Education in August, was required by the state after the board adopted an operating budget that left the district with a $2.36 million deficit at the end of the school year.

Since then, the district has received no acceptance or rejection of the plan, even though Lansing was supposed to respond within two weeks. The plan approved Thursday contains the same cost-cutting measures but would bring spending into alignment in four years instead of the two-year time frame the state normally requires.

The state legislators expressed sympathy but could offer no satisfaction.

Mr. Zorn said Michigan's problem was a shrinking population and employment base and reduced revenues, and Gov. Rick Snyder and legislature had worked to eliminate a $1.5 billion deficit. "We've lost a little over 1 million jobs in 10 years," he said.

Mr. Olson said the state's pension fund for public employees had unfunded liabilities of $46 billion and that one way to contain costs was to cap employers' contribution rates, which Lansing planned to do.

Contact Carl Ryan at: cryan@theblade.com or 419-724-6183.

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